That part of your closet you haven't visited in a while...
Okay, people, how are you doin? February may be the shortest month on the calendar, but we all know it can feel ETERNAL (not to be confused with heavenly) like no other.
Last week, so weary of the same three heavy sweaters I've worn all season, I decided to venture more deeply into my closet. I was surprised to find a sexy, warm grey dress I've hardly worn this season. Though it felt a bit much, I added the commanding red medallion necklace a friend gave me for my 50th birthday. More than a few noticed it and referred to it as "something a goddess would wear." Mustering all my courage, not feeling at all a goddess, I even went with the red lipstick. "Chin up," I instructed myself (well, actually I like the version of this phrase used by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's manager, Susie...those of you who watch will know what I mean).
Anyway, though I wasn't feeling any goddess energy when I started the day, something about that medallion began to work on me. I ended the day surprised at how I'd somehow returned to feeling more myself and part of The Flow.
But February continues and the challenge resumes. The accumulation of ice, snow, grey skies and yet another snow day presses me into myself and my life in ways that aren't comfortable. I'm sick of cold air and snow days. I've done all the puzzles I want to do and the thought of trying to cajole my 13-year old into a board game with Mom just exhausts me. We've enjoyed enough tea to float a small boat. I'm railing internally at these snow day calls that seem to be verging on pathalogical and a restlessness courses through my whole body, frenetically pulsing at my edges: monkey mind on steroids. Frantically, I consider the escape options. A little more sugar? Maybe carbs. How about a trip to the Y? I consider better escapes for next February.
In another moment, the weight of all these days makes my heart feel like the ground beneath me, dense and cold, and a little distant. I recall earlier times when the earth of my heart, like Spring soil, was soft and warm and holding the secrets of new life. In February I can despair that such soil could ever exist. I wonder if the warm, lively pulse of creativity will return again. Going back to bed seems like a reasonable option.
When the reality before me is not appealing, it is so easy to spin out into a frantic fantasy future or numb out. Just like you, I have my favorite patterns for losing contact with the present moment.
But before we let the Voice of Judgment pull us down the familiar shame tunnel, pause. We needn't despair of our patterns. An Everything Belongs (or contemplative) perspective reminds us that the experience of disorientation actually plays a role in our transformation. Artist, teacher and author Shaun McNiff writes, "Transformation occurs when we lose our way and find a new way to return."
I like this reframing. Our disorientation provides, rather than another opportunity to judge ourselves, just a deeper embrace of the truth of who we are. And to the extent that we embrace the reality of our being, we are transformed.
Isn't this the story told again and again in the Christian scriptures? The theme of "returning by another route," is present in story after pilgrimage story.
A particular favorite of mine is the parable of the prodigal son. Young and restless, his own innocence seeks to break free of the perceived boundaries of his family and young self. His departure is as inevitable as it may seem foolish; the awakened soul seeks adventure before safety. Or, maybe it was February. Either way, after coming to the seeming end of both of his inner and outer resources, he returns home. He returns identifying himself as a beggar and slave, and the truth is, he has been both. But his journey is not complete until his father bestows, and he receives, the royal ring and robe. This baptism-like blessing reminds him that what is inherently regal cannot be lost, no matter what he has done or what has happened to him. Receiving again the blessing of his own goodness, his journey is completed.
I think back to last week's venture into the nether regions of my closet. The option which presented itself to me was an invitation to more boldly claim my own regal dignity. After enjoying this outfit and the strength it evoked from within me, I pondered why I hadn't reached in this deeply more often. Like many of us, I think I may fear this regal power. I fear how showing up so boldly may "take up too much space." I fear the responsibility it requires. I fear what new, unexpected energies may come through me, given such encouragement. Maybe most significantly, I get confused about the source of such powerful dignity. Too quickly I think I can don this power through the accomplishment of being or doing. And so when I feel like I have not done enough, or have not become enough, I do not feel free to wear this part of myself. But the truth is that such dignity is conferred, not earned. This dignity is conferred upon each of us at birth, and cannot be revoked. Though our journeys can cause us to lose touch with it, there is nothing we can do or which can be done to us, that undoes our regal dignity as children of God.
Into what deep regions is the ETERNAL nature of this February inviting you? Is today the day for you to stop and turn to face the restlessness, or acknowledge a heart whose surface has become frozen? No need to judge or fix either situation. Simply welcome the awareness of your disorientation, and sit with the holy teaching named Discomfort. With sustained and compassionate holding, the restlessness itself will guide you. Held within the warm gaze of soft-eyed beholding, the frozen ground will soften, when the time is right, and not a moment before. The process, like the seasons, may not be predictable, but you can trust it.
I believe this with all of my heart. Lord, help my unbelief.